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SMU vs. TCU Football Prediction and Preview

SMU Mustangs vs. TCU Horned Frogs Prediction and Preview

Saturday will be the 100th edition of the Battle of the Iron Skillet between SMU and TCU

After a one-year hiatus, the SMU Mustangs and TCU Horned Frogs will meet for the 100th time Saturday in Fort Worth. The last time these teams met, SMU claimed the Battle of the Iron Skillet in 2019, beating the Frogs 41-38 to close the gap to 51-41-7 in the rivalry series.

Both teams enter undefeated following wins that were too close for comfort last time out. The Mustangs needed a desperation pass to the end zone to beat Louisiana Tech 39-37 to improve to 3-0. TCU is 2-0 and had an extra week to prepare after beating Cal 34-32 in Week 2.

SMU at TCU

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: FS1
Spread: TCU -9

When SMU Has the Ball

No quarterback has more passing touchdowns this season than Tanner Mordecai, and it’s not close. When Mordecai’s heave bounced into the hands of Reggie Roberson Jr. for the game-winning score last week, it was his 16th touchdown, five more than the next closest signal-caller. Not a bad start for the Oklahoma transfer in his first three games with the Mustangs. Overall, Mordecai has completed 81 of 111 pass attempts (73.0 percent) for 1,023 yards and has been intercepted twice. He ranks No. 8 nationally in completion percentage, No. 6 in passing yardage, and No. 18 in yards per pass attempt (9.2).

Roberson’s touchdown was his first of the season, and he ranks fourth on the team with 171 yards on 14 receptions. Those are surprisingly low numbers for the All-America candidate, but several other talented receivers have stepped up for Mordecai and the Mustangs. Speedster Danny Gray leads SMU with 16 catches and 228 yards and is tied with Rashee Rice (10 rec., 207 yds.) for the team lead with four touchdowns. Tight end Grant Calcaterra, another Oklahoma transfer, has been impressive with 12 receptions, 193 yards, and three scores.

Running back Ulysses Bentley IV, one of three other SMU players with a at least one touchdown catch, has 250 rushing yards and one touchdown on 33 carries. North Texas transfer Tre Siggers has split the workload with Bentley and has gained 147 rushing yards on 34 attempts. Mordecai has chipped in with 84 yards on 16 carries.

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When TCU Has the Ball

Max Duggan has completed 31 of 50 pass attempts (62.0 percent) for 441 yards (8.8 ypa) and four touchdowns with two interceptions, and he's added 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Duggan tied his career-high with three touchdown passes against Cal, a mark he first set against SMU as a true freshman in 2019. Quentin Johnston has emerged as Duggan’s top weapon in the passing game, and he leads the Frogs with nine receptions, 133 yards, and two touchdowns. Derius Davis and Blair Conwright have each caught five passes for 86 and 78 yards, respectively. Conwright, JD Spielman, and Blake Nowell have all been on the receiving end of TCU touchdown passes, with Nowell’s 20-yarder coming from TCU backup (and Oklahoma transfer) Chandler Morris in mop-up duty of the 45-3 victory over Duquesne in the season opener.

Running back Zach Evans was limited to 22 yards on five carries (including a touchdown) against Duquesne but broke free with 190 rushing yards and another touchdown on 22 attempts in Week 2. Evans, the five-star sophomore, also had one catch for 14 yards against Cal and is capable of a bigger impact. Kendre Miller (12 att., 72 yds., TD), Emari Demercado (5, 32, 1), and Daimarqua Foster (10, 32, 0) round out a deep running back group.

Final Analysis

It’s early, and TCU has only played two games, but the Horned Frogs rank No. 102 nationally in yards allowed per play (6.09) and No. 123 in yards allowed per pass attempt (9.9). Cal, no longer the high-scoring Bear Raid offense of current SMU head coach Sonny Dykes, averaged 11.4 yards per pass and threw for 309 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Frogs have also been without pass rusher Khari Coleman and cornerback Noah Daniels for unspecified reasons, and it’s unclear when the pair will play again. The SMU defense hasn’t been much better, statistically speaking, as the Mustangs have allowed 5.8 yards per play. Louisiana Tech averaged 7.0 yards per snap, and threw for 351 yards. The Mustangs allowed 388 yards through the air to North Texas.

As rivals from neighboring cities, these programs know one another well. The coaches do, too, with Dykes having served as an offensive analyst for TCU head coach Gary Patterson in 2017 before he was hired by the Mustangs. The Horned Frogs are better than their early defensive numbers indicate, but SMU is the real deal on offense. Expect a close one — but for TCU, with a deeper roster, home-field advantage, and extra prep time, to come out ahead.

Prediction: TCU 32, SMU 29

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— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and managing editor of CFBWinningEdge. Follow him on Twitter @CFBWinningEdge.